This Summertime Audio magazine would not have been possible – or advisable – a few years ago, but a lot has changed, and so has the terminology. We now live in a world of network streamed music, where Spotify is king, where writing about UPnP or DLNA isn't viewed with blank stares, and where talking to your hi-fi system is a very real possibility. Even the conventional shape of a speaker has changed (somewhat) to accommodate the new.
What's changed beyond compare, however, is the performance we expect from our devices... up to a point. The snooty audiophile will never be able to see the point of a small, portable party in a box, and many products that cater to that market are simply beyond their experience. Others are more flexible in their approach and look to such systems as the perfect outdoor speaker, the perfect BBQ speaker, and so on.
We should all be thinking of these products very differently. If anything, they are the Dansette record player of tomorrow. Like the Dansette, they open up a world of music to the young listener, but unlike the Dansette, the sound of these systems is routinely very good and there is no need for apologies for the sound they make and the performance they bring to the party. And it is, invariably, a party.
Somewhere along the way, many of us forgot that audio products are there to entertain. Even the systems that are abjectly neutral are there to put a smile on our faces. These systems do that effortlessly, where sometimes truly awesome systems made out of unobtanium do everything right except the music itself.
I suspect there is going to be an increasing market of fine sounding boxes that are easy to integrate into home networks or online services. The technology needed to make such a product and the means whereby it sounds pretty good are in place now, and we'll see this concept move further up the high-end ladder.
It's with great sadness that we report the passing of Richard S. Foster, on April 25th 2018. A long-time Hi-Fi+ contributor, RSF was the archetypical curmudgeon, as wise in the ways of blues and classical music, labels and pressings as he was generous with that information, as excited by vinyl “gold” as he was dismissive of the false coin so often pedalled at great expense. His humour, passion, astonishing experience, and encyclopaedic knowledge will be sadly missed by all those who ever had cause to consult him.